Hot Lips Houlihan, Nurse Extraordinaire!
Loretta Swit In 'MASH' American actress Loretta Swit, in costume as Major Margaret Houlihan, in a scene from the television series 'MASH,' California, 1980. (Photo by CBS Photo Archive/Getty Images)
Major Margaret “Hot Lips” Houlihan, was the nurse in charge of the famous 4077th. It probably goes without saying that the 4077th refers to the mobile army surgical hospital unit on the hit television show M*A*S*H. The show told a story from the perspective of the medical personnel who were daily reminded of the casualties of war; the Korean War to be more specific.
The cast of M*A*S*H boasted a stellar cast with unbelievable talent. Not the least of these was Loretta Swit, who was cast as Hot Lips. Hot Lips was, unlike some of the other medical staff, an officer in the Army. Some of the others were there as civilians participating in the war effort.
Hot Lips’ character was devoted, almost to a fault, to her army career. She was in charge of the nurses at the hospital and ran a tight ship. She was one tough cookie, except when it came to the love of her life, Major Frank Burns (Larry Linville), Army surgeon.
Frank, however, had a wife back home but didn’t let that keep him from returning her affection. Hot Lips and Frank carried on, behind closed doors, at every possible opportunity. Foolishly, they thought that they were being discrete. Frank was known for making empty promises to Hot Lips that he would eventually leave his wife when the time was right. That time never came.
Margaret was given the name, Hot Lips, after a steamy night with Frank. A microphone to the camp’s public-address system was hidden under her cot and the entire session was broadcast over the loudspeaker. Margaret could be heard saying, “Yes, Frank! Oh, yes, kiss my hot lips, Baby!”.
Most viewers never saw, in Frank, what Hot Lips did. There were other men, many single, who were seemingly a much better catch; never mind that the couple couldn’t have been more mismatched. She was an intelligent, strong, curvy blond in tight Army fatigues and he was an incompetent, money hungry, sniveling coward. Eventually, Hot Lips moved on and married, but later divorced.
Hot Lips was a key character on M*A*S*H. Week after week we watched her no-nonsense approach to taking care of business; only infrequently showing her vulnerable side. Throughout the series, the character of Hot Lips dropped clues and little bits of information from time to time, giving insight into her backstory. Below are some of the things viewers may or may not have picked up on over the 11-year run of the show.
• Her parents were divorced.
• Her mother was a drunk and a kleptomaniac.
• She spent most of her paycheck getting her mother out of trouble.
• She had a sister who was (only) a Captain
• She was a military brat.
• She always regretted not having a hometown.
• Her biggest fear was loud noises.
• Her favorite song was, "When the Caissons Go Rolling Along."
• She was known for winning the betting pools at the 4077th.
• She was a dog lover.
• She was learning the Korean language.
Because of the changing climate in America at the time, M*A*S*H was very successful and aired for 11 seasons. Loretta Swit’s contribution to the show was impressive, to say the least. Swit, however, claims that the character of Hot Lips couldn’t be more contradictory to the person she really is.
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